I was really apprehensive about the trip all week. First of all, I was completely write-blocked on my presentation, I had all this shit to take care of at work ( still do, lol ), I hadn’t located my Corporate Card until the day before the trip, my flight was at 6 AM ( I’m total rubbish at getting up early, and I have a history of missing flights at any time of day ), and I’d never given a talk like this to boot. Oh yeah, I’d done tons of presentations at Lockheed, but that was always presenting data and findings, maybe giving some recommendations. I’d never really talked in front of my peers before in an educational sense.
When I got there though, it went great. Everyone was super nice, especially Doug, Lewis, and Clark ( Kelly lol ). I think the real turning point for me was the open panel discussion. Pretty much everyone on the panel was waaaaay more experienced than I was, but I felt like the one question I answered, I answered decently. Prior to doing my own session, I got to attend 3 other ones: Reusing Services, SQL Tuning from a Dev’s perspective, and Creating a Custom Extender using ASP.NET AJAX. I really liked the last two, but the services talk was definitely geared towards Devs and Architects. In addition to being more targeted towards my interests, I really liked how the other 2 talks were immediately applicable to stuff that I am working on right now. Case in point, the SQL tuning talk will be put to immediate use on TagSpace.
My own talk went well I thought. I think I had to work hard to get people interested, but I think that by the end I had most of the people in the session on-board. A few difficulties here that I think are relevant:
1) Less than 1/3 of the people had ever worked in an Agile development process
2) I’m pretty sure not a single person in the session was a tester – to wit, they were all developers
3) Math makes all the normal people’s eye’s glaze over, even though a nerd like me would have wanted to see even more than what I showed
4) For non-Microsoft individuals, the cost of entry represented by a single license of Visual Studio Team Edition represents a SERIOUS barrier of entry.
I think I tackled #1 and #2 pretty well, #3 I glossed over enough so that it didn’t kill me, but #4 I don’t think I really addressed at all. How do we evangelize our methodologies and practices if they are reliant on a piece of technology that the listener may not be able to afford? I definitely got them excited about Visual Studio, but is it up to me to also outline alternatives? In the end game, going to these sessions is meant to help out these people, but its also meant to get them to further adopt Microsoft products. What happens if the next best alternative is a competitors solution? I’m sure these are not new questions, but I think I’m in a unique position since I work in the Communities team. If I was working in the Visual Studio Team, my questions would be given not much thought, but as someone who is suppose to engage Microsoft customers, its inevitable that I should ponder the thought of why someone would not want to use our products, and to even examine those products. Hmm…this is too much for one post, more next time.